Dominic Thiem is coming off a career best performance at Roland Garros, where he was defeated in the final by Rafael Nadal. He will be eager to keep his good form rolling at the Halle Open, but he will have to get past Japanese world #52 Yuichi Sugita first. Sugita, however, is in some seriously bad form. He started off his grass court season with a second round loss in Rosmalen, but prior to that hadn’t won a match for nine successive tournaments, his last win coming in early March.
These two have met just once previously in their careers. That match came last year on the clay courts in Barcelona in the quarterfinals. Thiem got the job done with ease. After motoring through the first set to win it 6-1, he wrapped up the match 6-2 in the second set, winning in just 52 minutes. Unsurprisingly, he was dominant in virtually all facets of the match. Sugita won just a solitary game on serve, and only half as many points as his opponent - 26 compared with Thiem’s 52.
Path to the round of 16
Thiem was forced to work in the opening set of his first round match against Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny, who was once ranked as high as eighth in the world. But, he escaped the set by winning a tightly contested tiebreak seven points to five. That seemed to break Youzhny's spirit and from there the Austrian ran away with the match to ultimately win 7-6 6-2. His first serve was a major strength; with Thiem winning 82% of the points behind it.
Sugita didn’t have it quite so easy against German Maximilian Marterer, who recently impressed in making the fourth round at Roland Garros (lost to Nadal). After winning a tight first set, Sugita conceded the second 5-7. He won the third 6-3, but the match was a gruelling one, taking well over two hours to complete. Like Thiem, Sugita’s serving was important, and he won over 67% of points on his own serve.
How do they match up?
Thiem has an aggressive and powerful game. He plays primarily from the baseline, from where he is able to dictate proceedings with his forehand and powerful single-handed backhand. He also has a strong serve. His movement, a major strength of his on a clay court is more suspect on hard and grass courts. But expect him to force the comparatively diminutive Sugita beyond the baseline for much of this match, meaning Thiem will likely not be doing most of the running.
Sugita, standing at just 5’8” and weighing in at 66 kg, doesn’t possess the power of many of his opponent’s on Tour - Thiem being one such example. As a result, he relies heavily on his ability to cover the court and force opponents to play at least one extra shot. That being said, he is not entirely without offensive qualities of his own, with the Japanese often impressively able to turn defence into attack, even when on the stretch.
Thiem should be able to overpower Sugita in this match. He has a wide range of weapons where Sugita is relatively limited, and that should enable him to dominate this match from the baseline. Another factor in Thiem’s favour is the form of the two players, with Thiem coming off a French Open final and Sugita on a terrible run of early exits. Expect the Austrian to advance comfortably in straight sets.